Monday, August 31, 2020

The Necromancer and the Cavalier

A quick break from my sadly delayed SAWN-OFF releases (damned executive dysfunction) to post two classes inspired by Tamsyn Muir's undead Catholic lesbian space opera Gideon the Ninth and its sequel Harrow the Ninth! I read these a week ago and they've been living in my head rent-free ever since; and as a bonus I think they solve a neat problem in the Meatropolis, emphasizing the corpse aspect of the Turtle-Corpse that I've left mostly a background detail. In addition to the Butcher, Chemist, Fleshcrafter, and Traveller, the morbidly talented Necromancer and their dutiful Cavalier make a neat roster of 6 bespoke starting classes.


The Meatropolis still thrums with with the Turtle's last slow heartbeats, and so fleshcraft remains its central power and animating principle.

But on the fins, at the tail, on the shell - where life and marrow and flesh has given way to cold dead bone - necromancy rules supreme. An old school, from the old world, banned by the Cyclopean Empire on punishment of Utter Exile (read: being launched into deep space from the Turtle's back) for they could not afford to kill another living world. Joke's on them, their fleshcraft did it anyway. Now necromancy returns, empowered by the cold certainty that their power shall only grow, and they will be all that remains when the last vestiges of carrion are naught but dust, and the Corpse sheds its final pretenses of life.

Necromancers have dominion over souls, rot, decay, and dead bone. Their monasteries travel in the wake of the alien anoxic fungal ecosystems that take root on Ogoath's extremities.

Much to their own chagrin, necromancers (with few, powerful exceptions) are alive. They therefore control not their own forms but forms without, creating skeletal constructs, bestowing rot, empowering necrosis, engorging flaking skin into ablative carapace-shrouds. The greatest necromancers raise armies from a single corpse, wielding osseogenesis to create vast volumes of bone from single splinters or knuckles.

Hit Die: d4
Starting Equipment: Heavy robes inlaid with bone, set of ritual knives (flaying, deboning, scalpel, and sacrificial), book of anatomy.
Failed Career: 1. Battlefield Medic, 2. Doctor, 3. Fleshcrafter, 4. Noble Heir, 5. Sad Poet, 6. Serial Killer

Necromancer 1: Necromancy, learn a Form and two Techniques, 1 Death Die (d6)
Necromancer 2: +1 Specialty, +1 Technique, +1 Death Die
Necromancer 3: +1 Form, +1 Technique, +1 Death Die
Necromancer 4: +1 Specialty, +1 Death Die, invent a new Technique or Form.
Necromancy works like casting spells. Pick a Form you know and have immediate access to (you don't need to be touching it, but you should be roughly within the same room), choose a Technique you know to use, and roll and spend any number of Death Dice in your pool. Death Dice return to your pool on 1-3, or after a daily rest. Roll any number of your Death Dice,
Like fleshcraft, necromancy follows three laws. Break one while casting, roll a Mishap. Break two, roll a Doom. Break all three at once and the veil between the world of flesh and the world beyond will claim you like a lover, entranced by your daring and courage.
Law of Concentration. Flesh adapts to its new form and maintains new shapes, but death claims all things in the end. All constructs you create will end, without a Death Die to animate them.
Law of Conjunction. Flesh defies death. When you exert your will, life fights back. Roll with disadvantage if there's living tissue attached to the form.

Law of Continuity. As the fleshcraft law; you cannot turn one form to another through sheer necromantic power. Entropy takes its own time, and you cannot make it hurry. If you dare break this law, you must have both forms you want to transmute between.

1. Decomposition. Take sum necrotic damage.
2. Haunting. The spirit of whatever you've messed with doesn't appreciate it, and will tail you around heckling and bothering you until you appease it or stop playing with its remains.
3. Thanergetic Surge. Divide sum+dice necrotic damage equally around everything around you, allies and companions first.
4. Scavengers. You attract dice HD of local scavengers, who go for the Form you affected - or you.
5. See The Veil. You can see ghosts and magic and the dead for sum*dice*10 minutes, but everything else goes dark.
6. Shedding. The form falls apart into sum+dice minor undead and scurries off into parts unknown.

1. Primary Doom. You partially die. Some of your skin flakes off - perhaps a limb, or your abdomen, or your head - revealing the necromantic forms underneath. While you can do necromancy on this, reduce your max Health by half.
2. Consequential Doom. You're hanging on to life by a thread as more of your body decays away. You count as undead, and can't heal without using necromancy to do so.
3. Terminal Doom. You die. This is less of an issue than you'd expect, because death is kind of your thing. If you've found a way to prepare yourself to evade it, this is a great way to see if your scheme for eternal unlife works.
1. Bone. Brittle and dry, but firm and lasting. Our constant companion, and our final remnant. Constructs of bone have Armor like chain.
2. Carrion. Meat, once it's stopped twitching. Includes guts and organs and all the gribbly bits, once they cease to function and start to decompose. They still remember what they once were, and so constructs of carrion get an extra ability.
3. Rot. The sludgy growing mess of cell-corpses and split membranes. The leavings of scavengers and decomposers, without the offending messy organisms that usually facilitate the process. Constructs of rot can feed on living matter to heal and maintain themselves.
4. Spirit. Incorporeal souls linked to the remnants of their corpse. Not eternal, or at least not eternally here. Speak with them before they forget the last of themselves and fade into vengeful revenants. Bones anchor spirit best, as they decay slowest. "Constructs" of spirit are the ghosts of the departed corpse, or whichever pieces of its motive force remain, incorporeal and floating on the breeze.
Some techniques have different effects on the living versus unliving versus the undead: undead are constructs raised by necromancy, unliving are corpses with no animating principle, and living is fodder for the Art that needs to get properly killed first.
1. Animation. Rolled Death Dice are invested to raise an undead of the chosen Form. It has sum Health and dice abilities of your choice (subject to GM approval; samples are flight, wielding a weapon, being large enough to ride, or possessing an ability it had in life). 1 die lets you raise 1 skeleton or equivalent undead (rot: zombie, spirit: ghost, carrion: horrific stinking meat blob). You can dispel the undead at any time; when it falls the invested die returns to your pool if it's 1-3. It follows simple commands, has physical stats of sum (a spirit instead has mental stats of sum), and whichever properties the Form provides.
2. Communication. All parts of a corpse remember its past, though their memories are strange and fragile things. Spirits, Rot, and Carrion can be spoken to (they manifest strange mouths), Bone can only be read. Spirits remember their life in proportion to how much of their corpse remains lifelike (reuniting it or faking it can trick the spirit). Rot knows the form of what it once was and can be asked to rot particular things, or to spit up chunks of what it's eaten. Carrion knows what the corpse physically did in life, and its illnesses and addictions. Bone carries resonance of all that's happened since death, a silent observer. Ask dice questions and get specific true answers (including "I don't know), or ask sum questions and it might lie if it has cause to.
3. Decay. Rapidly ages the target. Targeting unliving Forms causes them to melt and flake away en masse (sum*dice body-volumes). Deals sum necrotic damage to living creatures as necrosis sets in and they wither away. Decay+Rot deals dice extra damage, Decay+Bone also gives them osteoporosis and breaks bones, Decay+Carrion also causes organ failure, and Decay+Spirit also ages them sum years (but only deals half damage to things that can't age). Restores sum Health to undead.
4. Dowsing. Find the nearest dice deposits of the Form. You can either set dice conditions for the deposits (size, age, type of originating creature, etc.) and search within sum km, or sum conditions and search within dice*100m.
5. Generation. Engorge the Form. Doesn't work on the living, obviously. Either expand it as it keeps the same shape (fragments will return to the shape the whole once took), or make more copies of the thing. Increases volume sum*dice times. You can control the direction it expands in, though its shape remains the same (a femur remains a femur). You may invest a die (as Animate) to keep it going until you choose to recall the die. If you don't, it returns to its original form after dice*10 minutes or until you choose to dispel it.

6. Induction. Move or reshape the Form. Can't change its volume; can just blow it to pieces. If this deals damage, it deals sum+dice damage. If this motion or shaping increases entropy, it stays, but if it decreases entropy, it returns to how it was after dice*10 minutes.

1. Army of Darkness. Requires Animation. You can maintain templates^2 points of 1-die undead without investing dice, each of which can have no more than templates Health.
2. Insorcist. Restore a Death Die to your pool whenever you kill a person without using necromancy.
3. Necro-Engineer. Requires Induction. You can invest Death Dice in Forms you induce to make them continue changing shape until you remove the die (in the way you set them initially; you can't change what you've induced it to do without using more Death Dice).
4. Spiritmonger. Requires Spirit. You don't need corpse remnants to call ghosts; they'll just show up if they died in the area - but you can't choose what kind of spirit will show.
5. Undead Dynamo. Your Death Dice return on 1-4 instead of 1-3.
6. Vast Range. If you definitively know the location of a Form (either by Dowsing), or having seen it there, you can do necromancy on it.


Cavaliers are proud warriors that devote themselves to a charge, either a person they're sworn to protect (as in Gideon and Harrow) or a mount they ride fearlessly into battle. As a tradition, this arose when the Cyclopean Empire grew its first fleshcrafts to fight both horrors from the stars and their own internecine squabbles. Their creatures needed riders and guides; their fleshcrafters neglected martial training and so needed warriors to defend them against betrayal or sabotage. Thus, the cavalier, sworn by blood and nerve to their fleshcrafter. While war became more ritualized so as not to consume precious lives in a hostile world, cavaliers retained powerful positions in imperial bureaucracy and as more grounded aides to the lineages' heirs.

The fall of the Empire and rise of the Meatropolis saw the post of cavalier return to prominence. A more dangerous world demanded more savvy talent, and as the fleshcrafters spent all their time growing trinkets and clones in their towers, the few cavaliers who recognized the new dangers trained once more to fight and die for their charges. Fight they did, die they didn't, and heroes they became. Now, emboldened by stories of their elders, a new generation of youth seek training as cavaliers to guard their allies, climb social ladders, and ride out against the encroaching darkness.

Hit Die: d8
Starting Equipment: Weapon of choice, off-hand weapon of choice or shield, gambeson, spurs, contract of cavaliership.
Failed Career: 1. Animal Breeder, 2. Hunter, 3. Gladiator, 4. Knight, 5. Noble, 6. Teacher

Cavalier 1: Pick either a mount or another character to be your Charge. You can take attacks for your Charge if you're within range of the attack (choose whether or not to take it before damage is dealt). Get a Bond with your Charge.
Cavalier 2: +1 Bond. You and your Charge may communicate nonverbally if you're anywhere within line of sight of each other, or in close proximity (touch range, though you need not be touching). +1 Hit Die.
Cavalier 3: +1 Bond. Your Charge may use abilities as if they were in your space if you can communicate with them. You get a free extra action on your Charge's combat turn.
Cavalier 4: +1 Bond. Your Charge cannot die while you still live and can communicate with them.

1. Aerial Ace. If your charge can fly, you can fall from any height without dying so long as you either fall from or onto them. You still take damage, but it can't reduce you below 1 Health.
2. Blood Bag. If you're in physical contact with your charge, you can hurt yourself to heal them an equivalent amount of Health.
3. Blood of the Covenant. If you're best friends with your charge, you can take the negative effect of failed saves in each others' stead if within range of the effect.
4. Broodmaster. If your charges are animals, monsters, or constructs, you can have two smaller charges instead of one big one (the smaller ones can't be mounts or mount-sized).
5. Bodyguard. If you're within arm's reach of your charge, you each get +1 armor.
6. Charger. If your charge is a mount, they can move at double speed. If they move full speed before an attack, they deal damage with advantage.
7. Doubly-Sworn. If your charge is also a cavalier, whenever they take damage for you, you can make a free attack against whatever dealt the damage. 
8. Faithful. If you and your charge serve the same Power, you both receive the benefits of any blessings it gives to one of you.
9. Follow By Example: If your charge is your superior in rank, hirelings, mercenaries, and other allies under your command won't lose loyalty for doing risky things they see you do first, including going into combat.
10. I'm Your Gun. When you sacrifice something for your charge, you get advantage on something they told you to do.
11. Love Conquers. If you're in love with your charge, you can make saves in their stead to save them from danger.
12. Mage-Auxilary. If your charge has magic dice (or other casting dice), you get a casting die and learn 1 spell (or form+technique, etc) they know.
13. Reciprocity. If your charge has more hit dice than you, they can take attacks for you as if they were your cavalier.
14. Scalpel! If they can heal, whenever they heal you or heal another with your help, dice rolled to heal are rolled with advantage.
15. Stalwart. If your charge has a smaller hit die size than you, step up your hit dice.
16. Student. If your charge has class templates, get a class ability they have.
17. Surrogate Parent. If you raised your charge from birth (or hatching), you can increase one of their stats by 2.
18. Teacher. If you can give your charge advice, you can let them use your skills to try again after they fail at a task.
19. Veilbound. If you die, you haunt your charge, bound to their service even in death. You can still act and speak through them, and they have access to all your abilities, which they can use with your permission (or you can use through them, with their permission).
20. Water of the Womb. If you and your charge are related by blood, you have perfect telepathy over any distance.

When your charge dies, you can either pledge yourself to a new charge (but your old bonds might no longer apply), or pledge yourself to their memory and become a Cavalier Vengeant. As a Cavalier Vengeant, you can still use all your bonds so long as you have a physical token to remember them by, but you can't level further in Cavalier.
Sample Mounts
These mounts hail from the Meatropolis. Feel free to reskin (ha!) them to fit your game, of course.
1. Ectoplasm Ooze. d8 Hit Die. Undead. Incorporeal except to you. Carries you inside it, like a gelatinous cube with long tendrils. Can interact instinctively with magic and the undead, but nothing else (besides you).
2. Giant Frenemy Crab. d10 Hit Die. Big, 2 armor, carries one person (will be annoyed and grab off anyone else). Attacks with big claw deal damage with advantage to someone grabbed.
3. Jelleyefish. d6 Hit Die. Can swim, can slosh across ground; 360 degree vision (no one will ambush you if it can warn you). If it's carrying you it'll give you 10 minutes of air.
4. Mound of Arms. d6 Hit Die. Like a cephalopod and a centipede except it's all human arms. Too smart for anyone's own good. Can wield weapons, though only has the coordination to attack once a round.
5. Pale Horse. d8 Hit Die. Undead, skeletal. 2 Armor. Carries 2 people, or one in heavy armor.
6. Ringwurm. 4d4 Hit Dice. Impractically huge, bus-sized. Space in carapace can carry whole party and supplies, like a vehicle. Burrows. Fears bright light, fire; will curl up like giant pillbug (crushes people inside).
7. Skinmoth. d4 Hit Die. Can fly and glide; carries one person in light/no armor. Can disguise itself as leather cloak.
8. Termeat Hive. d10 Hit Die. Big swarm of small bugs; takes double damage from area attacks but half from targeted attacks. Can command them, they're surprisingly smart. Burrow. Willing to hide just under your skin (this deals damage equal to the number of Health of termeat you want to conceal). Can be surfed/ridden like a wave.
9. Turtlociraptor. d6 Hit Die. Small, sneaky, won't let you ride it. Can call for other raptors' aid in a pinch.
10. Turtletoma. 2d6 Hit Dice. Big, 3 armor, very slow. Can carry the whole party, or one person and whole party's provisions/supplies. Ugly, but in that adorable twelve-eyed four-beaked way.


  1. Starting equipment should include 'Corpse Paint'!
    Seriously though, this is great.

  2. Based solely on that description, I've decided that I need to go read some Tamsyn Muir.

  3. > I'm Your Gun

    This post is conclusive evidence that you have very good taste in sci-fi.

    1. im chronically unable to shut up about ninefox gambit! someday i'll figure out how to run a game in the hexarchate...

    2. (and yes, i specifically put that and Veilbound in so someone can play as Shuos Jedao)


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